Leicester City go into their fixture this Saturday evening against Manchester City and will, once again, be without Algerian Riyad Mahrez.
After the transfer deadline day saga, Mahrez has missed six training sessions with the Foxes and subsequently been absent from Leicester’s two fixtures since then, where they faced Everton and Swansea respectively. Sky Sports reported that his absence on Saturday, after missing training once again, is inevitable and it is increasingly looking like Leicester and Puel will have to find a way to win without him.
Coincidently, they visit the club who were prepared to pay £65m with the addition of a player to acquire Mahrez’s services on deadline day. Manchester City surprised everyone just over a week ago as they made a late approach for Leicester’s prodigy. Some argue that due to the dreadful injury of Leroy Sane, which sadly put the midfielder on the sideline for around six weeks, Guardiola wanted to bring in a replacement. However, it is speculated that City were preparing a bid for the Algerian in the Summer anyway.
After making multiple bids for the Leicester playmaker, the last of those reportedly being around £65m in addition to a player, Leicester rejected all bids with a strong stance that the player, who they bought in back in 2014 from Ligue 2 side Le Havre, would not be sold.
Since then, Leicester have lost key members of the squads that achieved these miraculous feats. Danny Drinkwater and Ngolo Kante are two who have been allowed to wave goodbye to their time in Leicester and depart for ‘greater things’ as they switched Leicestershire for London to develop their trades at Chelsea. However, Mahrez has not been that fortunate. It has been declared that due to Leicester blocking his ‘dream’ transfer deadline day move; the winger has been depressed and not in a fit state to play football.
Gary Neville suggested on Sky Sports News that Leicester we’re well within their rights to not allow Mahrez to leave for Manchester and that Riyad’s agent perhaps could have done a better job in his recent contract renewal. Neville stated that a reasonable release clause should have been in the contract that simply states if a ‘top 6 club’ comes in for Mahrez, given that the fee is right, he should be allowed to leave. Relevant point.
The Players Football Association has offered to be a mediator between the two parties to solve the issue at hand. However, as of yet, it is believed no party has taken them up on this offer.
From Leicester’s point of view, they may be hoping that Mahrez just enthusiastically turns up to training and continues playing. Yet, after missing six training sessions and what will be three games come the weekend, just slotting back into a team which while you have been acting like the whole worlds against you have been working hard for their team mates and the fans, won’t be an easy feat. Whether Mahrez returns or not, it is a question of whether his team mates will be okay with his return. Some awkwardness it assured to creep its way into the team if Mahrez was to return and it certainly won’t be straightforward.
Riyad’s international coach, Rabah Madjer, understands where his star man is coming from. However, he has given him firm advice that he should return back to training as soon as possible to continue playing and work on his football. After a lackluster World Cup qualifying campaign, Algeria and Mahrez will not be in Russia this Summer and this may be a decisive factor into Mahrez’ decision to be an absentee.
However, with two and a half years still remaining on his current contract, not playing football is not the brightest idea. Although everyone knows what Mahrez can do, if he is not playing and not even training, what football club will want to bring him in during the Summer window? With this being said; if a club do want to bring Mahrez in, the question will concern, once again, the fee being paid. As we seen last week, and not for the first time, if the fee is not right, Leicester won’t be fools and sell.
The transfer request handed over last week by Mahrez is not the first of his Leicester career. After his speculative season helping Leicester win the league, the club qualified for the Champions League. After witnessing the greatness of a Champions League night, the following Summer, Mahrez handed in a request which was ignored. The summer previous, the midfielder was subject to bids from Roma, yet these bids fell well short of the asking price at only £35m. The winger once again stayed.
Nonetheless, Mahrez continued to happily play his football but this time it has clearly got too much for him. Maybe with City coming in he seen the gold and thought he would walk into a side who are extremely likely to win the Premier League and a club who are still in both domestic cups as well as the Champions League. Understandably for anyone this would be a dream move, yet after the move not transpiring, like moves involving Mahrez have done before, the Algerian has clearly had enough.
Mahrez’s unprofessionalism is now beginning to show and if he came back into the team straight away after the defeat at Everton this situation would not have got like this. Leicester fans appreciate that the Mahrez magic was a huge factor into their title success, however, if Mahrez continues to refuse to train and play, his legacy will be remembered for this behaviour and not for all the memorable times he has created for himself, his team mates and the Leicester fans. Which is extremely unfortunate and saddening.
Mahrez, although clearly frustrated, should appreciate what the Foxes have done for him and the player they have made him to be. If his almost ignorant behaviour continues then he will not be helping his case as he presumably prepares to move away from the King Power this summer.
As for now, Mahrez still remains a Leicester City player. Whether the Algerian, who has scored 35 goals and assisted 24 in his 127 top-flight appearances for the Foxes, plays again for them this season, is another story for down the road.
Written by Eamon Kitching.